July 30, 2013

writing it out

Goodness, I don't know what to write. Not for lack of content, but lack of clarity, organization. I haven't quite ironed it all out in my head. Maybe that is what this is--ironing out. I could do it in private, but I wonder if it might be useful for someone else, to know that life is messy, and thinking well is difficult, and sometimes we've just got to talk to someone to find some clarity.

I have learned so much this summer. I feel a different person, but much the same. I am me, but my dirty, rough, clay outer shell is being broken off to reveal the beautiful gold inside. Only He could do it. Could chisel away, sending cracks through my world, cracks that hurt, cracks that tear, split, and run through all of me. I feel as though I am falling apart, but it isn't that, really. The schmuck is falling off. It was comfortable, or I was comfortable in it. I feel bare, and cover up my gleaming gold skin, trying to hide the light. It is too noticeable, and I don't like drawing attention to myself. I shouldn't hide it, though. I won't be able to for long.

Gratitude. Who knew such a small thought could run a mighty crack through my entire clay skin? That being grateful--not just for the good, but for every moment, every in-the-way event, and inconvenience, every pain--could draw me so near to His heart? I have not enjoyed life, or felt this alive and purposed in a long time--since I was young I think. Slowly, I am becoming young again, dashing like my little sister to every flower, cupping their faces to mine and drinking their scents, studying the tiny details of their intricate petals and leaves. Every cloud, sunset, raindrop, sunny day, gloomy night, I soak in. I don't always necessarily feel their beauty wash over me like I used to, not all the time, but I choose to appreciate it. Every choice to give thanks is a step toward the One for whom my soul was made.

Slowly feeling returns to my numbed soul. But isn't that the difficulty? When we are not numbed, we feel the pain--it slashes deep, cuts hard, bruises and stings. "...there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." Leonard Cohen. Can we feel true, pure, heart-bursting joy if we numb ourselves to pain? Maybe the pain is the path to joy. Maybe the setbacks and inconveniences and disappointments are the miracles that bring us to a place to find Him, and find joy. Gratitude for every moment, being awake to every moment, has been my door to this.

Gratitude is less about feeling and more about choice, attitude. When I choose gratefulness, it acknowledges trust in Him, humbles me (which needs to happen as often as possible), and gives Him His due glory. Of all the words Ann Voskamp penned and that He breathed into my life, these have stuck to me like a bur:

"When I realize that it is not God who is in my debt, but I who am in His great debt, then doesn't all become gift?"

all becomes gift. ALL becomes GIFT. Not just Tuesdays, best friends, chocolate, and peaches, but every hard and good thing.

I am learning how much this life is not about me. His work in me is not for me alone. No, no. It is to help others. To share a little hope, build a little faith, and pour a great deal of love away. Because when I stop at the receiving of His love, I miss out on what love really is--giving, sacrificing, sharing.

"He doesn't give gifts for gain because a gift can never stop being a gift—it is always meant to be given. When we are grateful for His gifts, we give the gifts away because a gift never stops being a gift." Ann Voskamp

love never stops being gift. and joy is found in love. His love.

July 19, 2013

Five Minute Friday--Belonging to Today


July 19th 2012 is a day in history. Aren't they all? I walked, complained, rejoiced, stumbled, laughed and sipped frozen chocolate coffee (basically ice cream) today.

I belonged in this day. I long for tomorrow to be over--those tests that partly determine whether I get to entice the minds of students into books and poems. I just want it to be over.

So I thought about it all today--as I studied, reviewed, took study breaks. it will feel so good once it is just done.

But what about today? I belonged in today. Are we not made for a time such as this?

I saw small graces of His hand today. But not enough. Not enough to enjoy, to be grateful for the now. I complained about the sticky weather, my tests, and too many other things. But I remember the few moments of grace...

writing to a friend in need, the taste of the crisp herb bread and mozzarella, the cool slide of a frappe down my throat, the sunset that looked like waves of magma.

I wish I had enjoyed them more.

Even now as my heart pounds with nervous energy, I pray I can fill in bubbles and write answers without an urgent racing hand, desperate to be finished. Somehow, I want to savor that test, to thank Him for it. I don't know how, but He will show up somewhere along the way--He usually does. Tomorrow, I will belong in tomorrow--in that testing room, with those people. Maybe they need me, or I need them. When we let ourselves belong to our day--whether full of winding side roads, detours or easy paths--we find His grace and His work at hand.

Those tests don't sound so bad after all.

July 11, 2013

the shallow end

I long for the ocean today. And the mountains: Montana Rockies, Pennsylvania Alleghenys. An insatiable longing for something is gently roused with the rushing warmth of spring and summer finally come. Staring across the ocean affirms this desire. Tracing the heights and descents of mountains assures me that there is more.

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” C. S. Lewis

I find this true. We think that what pleasure we can seek here on this earth is enough. We look to celebrities who live immersed in the height of shallow pleasure and think that they have it all--sex, fame, power, money, the feeling of being the best or most of something. I find in myself this half-heartedness. In an attempt to quench my thirst I try to drink what I can to quench a thirst that will not be quenched until the day I am made whole. I walked in shadowy lands not too long past, craving to know. To understand. To try and reconcile the God the world wants and the God who is. 

“The yearning to know what cannot be known, to comprehend the incomprehensible, to touch and taste the unapproachable, arises from the image of God in the nature of man. Deep calleth unto deep, and though polluted and landlocked by the mighty disaster theologians call the Fall, the soul senses its origin and longs to return to its source." A. W. Tozer

We try to numb ourselves to the ache for Him by escaping--we turn to hours of television, hundreds of books, the shallowest of friends, take any laugh we can get, exercise more, scratch pain into our flesh, give away our greatest treasures in exchange for pleasure, put down as many people as possible--in an attempt to ignore our emptiness. We think the world's offer of fullness is the goal. We run. We always run. I always run. Towards them, away from Him.

Let your soul return to its source--put down your book. Turn off the television. Realize the sacred all around you. Find what joy brims from humble reverence, a simple thanks, a moment of deep communion with the God who reconciles, restores, redeems. It is not in the shallow water that we find the most joy, for the shallow water seems safe. Yet that is the ultimate danger of the shallow water--it is too safe. The deep water is where the real trust begins, the real reliance, the real joy. The hard gratefulness. The deep water isn't safe--but we belong to a God who works for the good of all the world, the good that will come when He brings all creation into unity. Maybe that means that I am eaten by a shark. Maybe that means I tread water and wait for a long time. Maybe I get a ship to carry others in. Maybe I get a small raft. Whatever my portion, I pray I can take it gratefully. Above all I crave Him, and the knowing Him that comes with trust.